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Baby Formula Manufacturers to Testify Before Congress Next Week; Suspected Gunman's Murder Plot Posted Online 30 Minutes Before Attack; CBP Says, About 234,000 Migrants Stopped at U.S. Southern Border in April. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 18, 2022 - 10:30   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Could criminal charges be on the table here?

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D-CO): Well, we need to investigate what really happened here. So, at this point, that's not Congress' job, it's the job of the prosecutors to decide whether there were criminal activities. We're just in the early stages of the investigation.

HILL: In terms of this investigation, the FDA, as you know very well, is facing criticism on a number of fronts, including the fact that it took two months to investigate these whistleblower claims at Abbott. Your committee oversees the FDA. Does the FDA need an overhaul? Do they have what they need to do their job at this point?

DEGETTE: Well, Erica, frankly, the FDA stands for the Food and Drug Administration, and for many years -- this is not new. For many years, the food part of that has been really locally neglected. So, what needs to happen is the FDA needs to put a lot more resources into inspecting facilities, particularly facilities like this Abbott plant, where Abbott is producing about 45 percent of infant formula in the U.S. in this plant.

I mean, the original complaints were in September of last year, then the whistleblower complaint, then the investigations. All in all, it's taken about eight months to get to this point. And now with this consent decree, it's two more weeks. It was approved by the judge, that's good news, but it's two more weeks to get up and going and then six to eight more weeks before families can see this on the shelves. That's almost a year since the initial complaint started to come in. And that's really unacceptable.

I've been talking to families in Washington, D.C. and in Denver, Colorado, who are driving around desperately trying to find food for their infants.

HILL: And, you know, I look at all of this and, look, I am looking forward to watching these hearings as well because I have a lot of questions that to this point have not been answered. The fact, though, that you need to hold these hearings to get these answers, that's frustrating to a lot of Americans, that some of these, what feel like simple questions, right, the FDA even saying, okay, we're going to allow to import some foreign formula, the fact we can't even get a real timeline on when that could happen, when some other relief could be available, why is it so hard to get those answers?

DEGETTE: Well, this is why we have an oversight committee. My committee has done this for years and years. We had a hearing a couple of weeks ago on the oil and gas companies and price gouging. We have had hearings on all kinds of issues like this. When you bring it to light frequently, then change happens.

So, what my goal with this hearing is not only to figure out why it took so long to identify these problems, why it took so long to remedy them, but also to figure out what the FDA needs to have a robust oversight plan, not just because we have a crisis right now, but going forward into the future for all of our FDA certified food facilities.

HILL: And, listen, a lot of parents too are asking for some sort of plan moving forward so we don't end up in this situation again, whether it would be with formula or something else. We'll tackle that on another day because I do just want to get you on one other point before I let you go.

I know you co-chair the House pro-choice caucus. You have been vocal since that draft decision was released, again, a draft, and there's a lot of talk about whether this will mobilize voters in the fall. The latest CNN polling which was taken, of course, after that leak shows there's a serious midterm enthusiasm gap here. Those who oppose Roe are nearly twice as eager to vote as those who support it. That's what you're facing right now.

DEGETTE: I saw some polling yesterday that said exactly the opposite. And in talking to people in my district in Colorado, I actually think this is going to be a huge motivating factor for younger women who just always assume that they would have the full range of health care, including abortion, and older women too who thought that this fight was fought and won. So, I don't know what that polling says, but I've seen just the opposite.

And I think it's going to be a huge motivator for people in the midterm elections, especially once the final opinion comes out and people start to realize the hard reality that people who live in almost half the states will have their ability to get health care severely limited.

HILL: Congresswoman Diana DeGette, good to have you with us today. Thank you.

DEGETTE: Thank you. Good to talk to you, Erica.

SCIUTTO: Well, there is big news in sports where U.S. Soccer announced a landmark agreement that will now provide equal pay and equal prize money, including at World Cups with male and female players. U.S. Soccer is the first federation in FIFA, as it's known, the international governing body for football, to adopt a policy that equally splits tournament prize money.

[10:35:03] We should note, Erica, throughout the Women's National Team, consistently outperforms the men's national team.

HILL: Yes, kind of important to note that too. Well, since the FIFA Women's World Cup was first established in 1991, the American team has actually won at 50 percent of the time. U.S. Women's Player Midge Purce telling The Wall Street Journal, quote, there are a lot of young girls who are going to to see what we have accomplished and grow up recognizing their value rather than fighting to find it. Let that quote stick with you for a minute.

SCIUTTO: Yes, that's a great one.

Still ahead, new details about the attacked plans made in advance by the suspected gunman in Buffalo, New York. The alleged shooter shared details of his plot on social media half hour before the attack. Why weren't the warning signs heeded?



SCIUTTO: Just in to CNN, one of the officers involved in the death of George Floyd has now pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge, this in state court. Thomas Lane, the former Minneapolis cop pictured there, was already convicted of violating Floyd's rights in a federal court. He's awaiting his sentence in that case, but today's plea deal means he will avoid another trial and get a three-year sentence that can be served at the same time as any federal term.

George Floyd's family watched the hearing virtually, is expected to release a statement later today.

HILL: Well, we now know the suspected gunman in the Buffalo massacre revealed his plans 30 minutes before opening fire and killing ten people. The suspect's post revealed he visited the grocery store back in March to survey the location. He had been posting observations about activity inside that store, noting how many black and white people were there.

SCIUTTO: So often, it seems there are warnings in advance. Now, the community faces all the real world implications and consequences of this, the center of a food desert, as it's known. Many of the residents there don't know where to turn if this grocery store does not reopen.

CNN's Omar Jimenez explains why many of those residents might not have another choice.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Food drives are now temporarily lifelines for residents in this East Buffalo neighborhood after a massacre at their only area supermarket left not just pain but a hole in the heart of the community.

LACRESHA BARTON, NEIGHBORHOOD RESIDENT: I have to drive like 10 to 15 minutes away, now maybe more than that.

JIMENEZ: There's now nowhere nearby to get fresh produce for residents.

BARTON: Some broccoli, fresh broccoli.

JIMENEZ: Like LaCresha Barton and her four-year-old daughter.

BARTON: I travel a lot of places that's not even in my route to go get food. The other stores, you get junk food, and it's not good for you or your kids and the family is eating junk.

JIMENEZ: The Tops Supermarket opened back in 2003.

AVERILL DOVE, GREW UP IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD: I was actually born over here. It was a big win we felt like for a place where you don't really get many wins.

JIMENEZ: While Tops has pledged to reopen and is providing shuttle service to another location, it's unclear when it will ever come back in this neighborhood. Life without it is a new sudden reality.

DOVE: Yes. I'm sorry. And you ask anybody who lives over here, like to lose a staple in your community like that, you almost don't get over it. And to have someone come from outside and not like you for the simplest things, the things you were born with, you can't change that.

REVEREND PAUL THOMAS, PASTOR, BETHEL AME CHURCH: This community does what this community always does, shows love. This community has not failed to demonstrate that same love and that same ethic when one person hurts, we all hurt.

JIMENEZ: Paul Thomas is the pastor of Bethel AME Church just a few blocks from the supermarket.

THOMAS: Access to the nearest produce bearing or protein bearing market is about two miles away.

JIMENEZ: All of the census tracks around this particular Tops were listed by the USDA in 2019 as not only largely low income but also low vehicle access. In one track, roughly 45 percent of households are without vehicle access and over a half mile away from a supermarket. And that data is from when Tops was still an option. Now, the nearest supermarkets are nearly two miles away, this one even further.

DOVE: Any direction you go to the grocery store is about two to three miles away. So, this is just one direction we decided to go.

JIMENEZ: There are other places to get food near the Tops but usually without the resources of fresh produce.

THOMAS: You have corner stores, you have family dollars. So, the gaps with being able to access those resources is an issue.

JIMENEZ: The local food drives are currently a band-aid in comparison to what the grieving community needs long-term.

BARTON: I've been scared to even go to the store by myself or take my daughter to the store, because I I'll probably be targeted.

JIMENEZ: So, for now, Barton makes due with what she can get.

CRYSTAL PEOPLES-STOKES (D), NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MAJORITY LEADER: I know there are people who are feeling some kind of way about the thought of having to walk back in that market, but no evil racist, bigoted person is going to scare me out of my community.


JIMENEZ: But for many others, it's a high bar.

Are you ever going to be able to walk inside that Tops again?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think some real heavy work needs to be done to address this issue, especially in this community for people to feel safe again.

JIMENEZ: It was a safety that was snatched but one at least some from the neighborhood feel won't be lost.

DOVE: I was shot right here, right in front of the house. 2003. And it was difficult to come back to my grandmother's house. It took some time but you get back.


JIMENEZ (on camera): And it's going to be a long process. We've seen resilience here in this community, but there is still -- there are still more funerals, there is still healing to be done as well. It's now been days since this shooting. But for the time being since with this supermarket closed, it's come down to neighbors helping neighbors, trying to find a way forward and in this and the effects of losing the supermarket are likely going to be felt for much longer than days in this community on top of, of course, mourning the losses of ten of their own. Jim, Erica?

HILL: Absolutely. And it speaks to the importance of recognizing the needs of this community, you know, that should have been recognized in the past but even moving forward just in terms of resources in that area. Omar, great reporting, as always, thank you.

Still ahead, we'll take you live to the U.S./Mexico border. CNN just got an exclusive interview with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. We'll bring you that.

Plus, more on how the Justice Department is now talking about this underground smuggling operation uncovered from Mexico into the U.S.



HILL: Last month alone, U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped more than 234,000 migrants.

SCIUTTO: We are now less than a week away from the end of Title 42. That's the pandemic-era measure that allowed border officials to turn away migrants in the name of public health, of course, the COVID pandemic.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is at the border in McAllen, Texas. So, Priscilla, you spoke with the DHS secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas. How concerned is the administration for that Title 42 deadline?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: Well, they're making all the preparations they can for what they anticipate is going to be an increase of migrants at the U.S./Mexico border when this Trump-era pandemic restriction lifts because of pent-up demand and the conditions in Latin America.

Now, of course, they are waiting for a court decision on whether they will be able to move forward with those plans on Monday, but the secretary told me that while they're still planning, they're still seeing a lot of crossings along the U.S./Mexico border. Take a listen.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We're seeing about a seven-day average of over 7,500 people. Have we have not seen a significant decrease in the flows, but we are working very closely with our partners to the south with Mexico in anticipation of a potential surge in a post-Title 42 environment.


ALVAREZ: And that's really what the secretary was stressing when he was here in McAllen just yesterday. It is those partnerships with Mexico and Latin America trying to stem the flow of migrants coming to the U.S./Mexico border.

He also talked about doubling down on immigration consequences. When Title 42 lifts, it would go back to the typical immigration procedures, and that would mean potentially more deportations here along the border. And so he also talked about that.

Now, in April, we are now learning that there were over just 201,000 crossings, unlawful crossings at the U.S./Mexico border. That is just slightly down from March, but the numbers are high and this remains a concern for the department, Jim and Erica.

HILL: Priscilla, what do you know too about this tunnel that the DOJ announced, calling it a sophisticated cross-border tunnel? Not the first time we've seen this. What do they say?

ALVAREZ: This was a remarkable discovery. As you mentioned, Erica, there have been some 90 subterranean passages that have been found since 1993 in the southern district California. This was a sophisticated tunnel. There's only been a little more than two dozen of those. And what they found was essentially a tunnel that went six football fields in length, four feet diameter, and they have -- the Justice Department arrested six people in connection to contributing cocaine, in fact, a ton of cocaine, and they also seized methamphetamine and heroin.

So, that, again, another element here on the U.S./Mexico border that the administration contends with. Erica?

SCIUTTO: A hugely sophisticated operation there. Priscilla Alvarez at the border in McAllen, Texas, Thanks so much.

And thanks so much to all of you for joining us on yet another day. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

HILL: And I'm Erica Hill in New York.

Stay tuned. At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts after this quick break.



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan.

Here's what we're watching At This Hour. Too close to call. A Republican primary in Pennsylvania could be headed for a recount. We have the very latest on Tuesday's big races.

And invitation to watch a massacre, disturbing new details about what the suspected gunman posted online just minutes before ten people were murdered at that Buffalo supermarket.

And the worst kind of record we are tracking, $6 a gallon gas is now the average in one state.


And it may be soon coming to you.